Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Many a parent has a heavy heart knowing that a son or daughter is far away from them and from God. A famous Bible story gives hope to all parents of prodigal children.
Last time we heard the sad account of Absalom. Today, a story with a happier ending. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Wind with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, you'll be teaching about the prodigal who came home, and I hope this message will give hope to many parents. You know, Dave, I want to say to all those who listen to the ministry of Running to Wind, if you were to summarize what our program and our message is all about, it would be a message of hope in the midst of darkness. And of course, this message emphasizes that as well as we think of the prodigal who did come home. Let me ask you a question. Are you blessed as a result of this ministry?
If so, it's because other people have invested in Running to Wind. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, you need more info, so here's what you do. Go to RTWOffer.com. When you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. The hope that the prodigal son received and the joy that he brought his father is a message that we need to get to the world.
Thanks a lot for helping us. The prodigal who came home. There are actually two kinds of prodigals. There are those who do not come home, and then there are those who do. This is just a two-part series, and in the first message, I spoke about Absalom, who was a prodigal who did not come home.
He died in his rebellion. But today we're going to talk about the prodigal who actually came home. This series of messages, this series of only two messages, grew out of the fact that we've been praying for prodigals in our prayer meeting. Over the period of the last weeks, I've interviewed perhaps 20 or 30 POPS, parents of prodigals, and we got the names of their prodigals, and I'm always interested in the context in which the children rebelled and left home and left God. And so we have these names on lists, and we are fasting and praying to see God bring prodigals back home. But one of the things we learned about prodigals, and you know that word means wasteful, the person who turns his back on God, what we learned is this, that there are really two kinds of prodigals in this sense as to why they leave home. There are those who leave home because of their home life.
I was amazed, though I should not have been, that as I interviewed the parents I discovered that there was divorce, sometimes there was abuse, sometimes there was the abuse of alcohol, and so forth. And so the child decides to leave home, and he hates his mother and his father, and he says, I also hate your God, and he leaves it all behind. I'm amazed at the number of prodigals who are angry prodigals, angry with their parents, with their circumstances, and with God. But then there are prodigals who come from fine homes, where there was no abuse, where there was nothing but love and caring and good teaching and good churches, and they became prodigals anyway, because there was something within them that said that what we need to do is to find our own way, and they look at the world and they say to themselves, we have been gypped, and what we want to do is to make sure that we go and we get it all, the lure of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That's the way it was in the story of the prodigal son, which is found in the 15th chapter of Luke's gospel. Luke chapter 15, he was from a fine home with a wonderful father, but it was the lure of the far country.
If you have your Bible, the 15th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Jesus, who was a master storyteller, tells this very familiar story, which I'm sure you've heard many messages on. Verse 11, there was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, father, give me the share of my property that's coming to me, and he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living, and when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need, so he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country who sent him into the fields to feed pigs, and he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave to him.
What a rebellious, thankless son this was. First of all, he should wait until his father dies before he receives his inheritance, but he comes to his dad and said, I can't even wait until you die. Give me my inheritance now. That little word, give me, isn't it in verse 12? I mean, that is the kind of entitlement. Give me what's coming to me. I have it coming to me.
I deserve this. So the father, according to the laws of the Old Testament, gave him a one-third, and the elder brother would receive two-thirds. Wordless, the father watches him go down the road, because the father knows what the far country is like. The father understands that the far country makes promises it cannot keep.
The father knows that in the far country all of the wells are dry. But interestingly, he doesn't try to talk the son out of it, because there comes a time in the life of a child where he has to make his own decisions, and so heartbroken and grieved because the son is turning his back on the father. The father watches the kid leave. Let's look at the text and find out all of the steps that this boy took in the wrong direction. First of all, he goes away as far as possible. It says he went to a distant country. I want to go where nobody knows me, where I don't have any relatives and friends and an elder brother looking over my shoulder and telling me, uh-uh, you shouldn't be doing this. I want to go to New York. I want to go to Chicago.
I want to go to Los Angeles as far away as I can from home so I can do my thing and nobody knows me. So he chooses the distant country. Also notice in the text it says he misuses the blessings of the father. He spends his property, his wealth, that his father gave him on riotous, reckless living.
Now just imagine that. Imagine the extent of the man's sin, this young boy. I mean, his father's money is to be used for things that would honor the father, and he takes the very blessing that the father gave him and he sins against his dad by doing the kinds of things that would hurt and grieve his father.
We've all been there, haven't we? God gives us blessings. He gives us health. He gives us strength. He gives us money. And we say to ourselves, it is mine.
I'm going to do my own thing. And we use God's blessings and God's gifts to sin against him and to do what hurts him. Notice also he despised his religion. Certainly in the basis of the Old Testament in Jewish times, pigs were unclean animals, not just physically unclean. And pigs are physically unclean, but they're also ceremonially unclean.
He's not supposed to get near them, but he doesn't care about what his religion teaches because for him now it's a matter of survival. He's hungry. And there he is in the pigsty willing to eat the pods that they were given to him. I was brought up on a farm and I'm kind of glad I left the farm behind personally. And we had pigs. And I remember we had a pail that we used to call the slop pail.
I don't know if we use that word nowadays, but now that it's out of my mouth you know what I mean. The slop pail. All of the things from the table that wouldn't be eaten was put into the slop pail. And then the slop pail was given to the pigs. And there this young man is there and the Bible says something very interesting. The key to the turn of his life is in verse 17, but he came to himself. Oh, what a wonderful phrase.
Under line it in your mind and in the word of God, he came to himself. Now there are all kinds of reasons why he could have stayed in the far country. He could have said like some prodigals, I'm going to die in the far country and I'm not coming back home. I don't care if I die out here. I don't care if I starve.
I don't care if I get disease from these pigs. I'm staying here. He could have had a hard and rebellious heart and he could have justified it in his own mind. He could have said, first of all, I can't stand the shame of going back to my father. If I go back to my father, I go empty handed. He will know that I squandered everything that he gave me. He knew what the far country is like and now I have nothing to present to him. And it's embarrassing to go back home and to say, father, I bring nothing in my hands and I cleave to your grace and mercy.
That takes a lot of humility. And so he could have said, I'm not going to do that. He could have also said to himself, there's no use me going back because I can't, I can't keep up the rules of the farm. My dad has certain standards and if I go back there, I am sure that I just can't measure up to what he wants.
So I'm going to stay in the far country. Another reason that he could have stayed in the far country and I'm convinced it's a reason why many prodigals stay in the far country. He could have said to himself, I'm not going back to that goody two shoes brother of mine. You know, the brother who's never done anything wrong, who's worked hard on the farm and the people in town say, here's a man who had two sons and one of them is this rebellious kid who should be whipped and the other guy, ooh, we wish we had a son like him.
Works from sunup to sundown. Very, very reputable. The worst thing he's ever done, like one man told me, I've never sinned. The worst thing I've ever done is to take a pair of golf clubs and wrap them around a tree. Oh, are you impressing me with your sinlessness? Self-righteous. God can't use you. Somebody might say some self-righteous person, you know, you've been divorced, you've been in the far country and all the people who are nitpicking and you know, when you go back to the father, you have to put up with his other kids and that's why many kids stay in the far country. They think to themselves, I'm not going back to the people of that church because if I come back to God and back to mom and dad, I have to go back to God's people and I don't like them.
This boy could have said that, but thank God he didn't. He came to his senses. Now you have to catch the picture in prayer meeting. Here I am, I'm interviewing pops, parents of prodigals and we're learning about the prodigals and we're putting them on name lists and we even received calls from outside the church of people who couldn't be here who said, please put my son and daughter on your list and by the way, we have a list of maybe 30 and we're praying and fasting and seeking God until the prodigals come home. We're taking this seriously because these prodigals need to come home, but one of the things that we learned also was I interviewed people who had been prodigals at prayer meeting and said now they were at, they weren't prodigals at prayer meeting, you understand, they attended prayer meeting though at one time they were prodigals, although prayer meeting is open to prodigals. Hundreds of you should come to prayer meeting.
It's open to prodigals. I wish you'd come to prayer meeting. So I interviewed people because I want to know what is it this business of coming to your senses? What does it take for a prodigal to finally say, okay, I give up, I surrender the weapons of a rebel no matter what it is. I'm submitting to God and I'm coming back to God. What is it that God has to put people through? Let me give you one testimony of a man whose name is Bob. If he were here, I'd interview him. Unfortunately, he couldn't be here today, so he sent me his testimony, which I've summarized. He said, okay, he's brought up in a Christian home.
That's the background. I threw myself into a life of sin. I soon embarked on an adulterous relationship with a woman I met at work and several months later I moved to California hoping to put my past behind me once for all.
He goes to the far country, and California is the far country, is it not? All right. Although I never felt prey to the conventional addictions such as alcohol and drugs, for me the ultimate addiction was independence. I reveled in having absolute control over my life with no one to answer for the choices I made.
Master of my fate, captain of my soul. For the next 22 years, that was the pattern of my life. During my years apart from God, he brought health crises to wake me up, but it didn't work.
I refused to surrender. My life of sin was becoming less and less fulfilling every day. I can recall numerous times when I literally sobbed at how empty my life had become. Although I was never tempted to commit suicide, for the first time I could understand how someone could hurt enough to take that way out. There's some people who say rather than come to God, I'd rather kill myself. I knew that the choices I had made were responsible for the situation I was in, but I saw no solution. I felt totally bound by my sin. I had lunch with someone this past week who said regarding his boss, he has no ideas of the chains of sin that bind him.
Wow. And then he says he talked to a missionary and this awakened within him a desire to live differently. And then he says things were like this until October the 19th last year.
And the man is in his 60s. And whenever I interview him, those of you who were in prayer meeting, you will remember he wept. He could hardly talk about the grace of God in his life. He had an allergy attack.
He called for assistance. He passed out. He thought that this was the end.
He was absolutely certain he was dying. And even though he lived, he said later to himself, I just dodged another bullet. I can continue to ignore God. Don't you marvel at the stubbornness of the human heart. I mean, I read this and I say, wow.
All right. They discharged him and he began to realize that he was gambling with his soul and now he was scared. And still the bonds of sin were so strong that I was not willing to relent. You know, particularly those of you who are living in immorality, you know, you're sleeping with your girlfriend because after all, you know, you're going to get married anyway. And those of you who are in those kinds of sinful relationships, it is tough for you to come to the father because you know right well that when you come to God, God is going to not only forgive you, but he's going to try to clean you up. My dear friend, I want you to continue to listen while I have a letter I'd like to read an excerpt from.
It comes to us from Iraq because the ministry of running to win is in Arabic. This person says, I've been living in sin for so long. When I listened to one of your episodes, I felt that the Lord was talking to me personally. I've decided to repent. I need your prayers and support because I need to learn to break free from my friends shackles, exactly what I was preaching about, the shackles of sin. Did you know it's because of people just like you, we are able to receive these kinds of testimonies from the Arabic world. Thank you in advance for your support. Let me ask you a question. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.
Of course, the amount that you give is entirely your decision. Now you need more info, so here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com. When you're there, you click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. When I think of the ministry of running to win, I realize it's not the ministry of a man, of an organization, or the ministry of a church. This, my friend, is your ministry. Thank you for being our partners.
Once again, that info, you can go to rtwoffer.com, click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Serving the Lord after a time of living in sin, what options does a believer have? Jesse has written with this story. I have a heavy burden to preach the Gospel, but in my past, I committed adultery. This happened two years ago, and I was a Christian at the time. I've since repented and want to tell others what the Lord has done in my life and how His Word has the power to change us. My question is this. Can or will God use a man who has sinned so greatly to proclaim His Word to others?
Jesse, thanks so much for writing, and of course, in answer to your question, if I might begin at the end of your questions. The answer is, yes, of course, God uses people who have fallen into the sin of adultery. Possibly the best illustration is David in the Old Testament. You know, we read the Psalms, and we are blessed. We read the things that David did and the encouragement that he gives to all of us, and yet, we also know that at one time he committed adultery, and he prayed that his joy might be restored, and he also said that he might be able to tell others of God's grace and power.
It's there in Psalm 51. He said it in different words, but he said that he might be able to proclaim to others and that they might hear the Word through him. So in answer to your question, yes, I want to encourage you. But at the same time, what we have to do is to unpack your question and to look at it from another point of view. You say you have a burden to preach the gospel.
I'm not sure what that means. If you say, I want to share the gospel with others, obviously you are free to do so. Not only that, but telling them about your story and your failure might actually be a way to show people God's grace and God's mercy, and your testimony, I'm sure, can have an impact in the lives of others. But if we look at your question a little differently, when you say that you have a burden to preach the gospel, does this mean that you want to be an officially recognized, ordained minister?
That's a separate question. Denominations today take different points of view regarding whether or not they are willing to put their hands on and anoint, if I can use that terminology, someone who has committed adultery. The problem with establishing a person like that in a position of recognition, leadership, and official sanction, the problem is that it oftentimes, what shall we say, makes people think that sin might not be too serious. You can imagine someone sitting in the congregation and saying, well, yes, I committed adultery, but so did my pastor. And because of that, the Bible has a very high standard. It has a high standard for those who would be involved in official church ministry representing the church. So you and your wife and your denomination are going to have to think through all those implications before you, quote, officially preach the gospel. But in terms of individual witnessing, I encourage you to do that, to let people know that Jesus redeems sinners, and you're a good example of that redemption. Absolutely, God is able to use you.
The question that needs to be determined is in what role and how will that being used look like? May God give you wisdom in all of these decisions and carry on for his glory. Thank you, Jesse, and thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Do you long for your child to turn around? The Bible's famous prodigal son demanded his inheritance and spent it all in a big hurry.
Reduced to eating with pigs, he knew he needed to come home and face the dead who'd begged him to not leave. Next time on Running to Win, what it takes to get a prodigal to reverse direction. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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